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Draft Positional Analysis DT
January 30 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
One of the key areas the 49ers will be looking at in this season’s draft is defensive tackle. Although the 49ers were able to contain the run for most of the season, the team struggled when it came to getting to the quarterback and against bigger offensive lines. Bryant Young had one of his worst statistical seasons and Dana Stublefield did not provide the 49ers with the impact they were hoping for. While both these player are likely to be starting defensive tackles next season, the depth behind them - particularly with Reggie McGrew’s future in question, is quite thin. Thus the need for a defensive tackle is imperative, and if the 49ers can find a gem, they just may be able to get to the quarterback a step early next season as opposed to a step late.

Below find a list of the top defensive tackle prospects as evaluated by 49ers Paradise, followed by a detailed report of each prospect. Comments are always welcome.

Top Prospects
John Henderson Sr. 6’7” 290 4.9/40 Tennessee
Wendell Bryant Sr. 6'3" 288 4.9/40 Wisconsin
Albert Haynesworth Jr. 6'6" 323 5.1/40 Tennessee
Ryan Sims Sr. 6'3" 290 5.1/40 N. Carolina
Larry Triplett Sr. 6'1" 300 4.9/40 Washington
Anthony Weaver Sr. 6'3" 281 4.9/40 Notre Dame
Alan Harper Sr. 6'1" 278 5.2/40 Fresno St.
Eddie Freeman Sr. 6'4" 288 4.9/40 Ala.-Birmingham
Josh Shaw Sr. 6'3" 285 4.9/40 Michigan St.
Nate Dywer Sr. 6'2" 299 5.1/40 Kansas

John Henderson
At approximately 290lbs and standing 6’7” and running the forty in 4.9 seconds, Henderson combines awesome physical tools with explosive power and strength. Henderson is the type of player that defensive lines are built around and is sure to make an impact on whatever team he gets drafted too. A tough player who has already proven he will play with injuries. Henderson’s height makes it particularly tough for opposing quarterbacks to throw over him. If Henderson has a weakness it’s his leverage coming off the line of scrimmage. Sometimes too high, makes getting the necessary push a little difficult. However, with proper coaching and with a frame that would allow him to add another 20lbs and still play at or above the level he is currently at - Henderson is likely to become a dominating player in the NFL.

Wendell Bryant
Bryant is a very quick defensive tackle, who at 6’3” 288lbs is about average size for his position. Bryant is perhaps the best tackle in the draft at shedding blocks and at beating double teams. He is even quick enough to play at defensive end. Bryant plays with excellent leverage but does need to add some strength to his lower body, and improve his conditioning to take his game to the next level. Bryant has played as heavy as 300lbs and could use that weight to be a bigger factor in the NFL. Oddly enough, the 49ers tend to like players with the name ‘Bryant’ at their defensive tackle positions.

Albert Haynesworth
Haynesworth is a very big prospect, at 6’6” 323lbs it is amazing that he can be so explosive off the snap. He plays with excellent balance, control and his center of gravity is right where it should be. Although Hanyesworth needs to improve his understanding of what’s happening around him, he does excel quite well at defensive tackle. He is a better pass rusher and should continue to improve in this area as he learns to make better use of size. He does play the run quite well too, but not as strongly as the pass. Would be a very good addition to any defensive line. Would be an awesome combination with an established veteran playing beside him.

Ryan Simms
Ryan Simms excels at run blocking, and has greatly improved his pass rushing ability. Simms has a great upside in that he has not reached his full potential yet. Simms displays good recognition and as such can use his good closing speed to make plays. Simms would really benefit from a good defensive coach who can teach him some of the intricacies of the position and focus some attention on his growth as a player. Had a huge advantage playing alongside defensive end Julius Peppers in college.

Larry Triplett
Larry Triplett is a short defensive tackle that plays at 300 lbs. He excels at getting off the ball quickly and using quick pursuit speed. Triplett is a raw prospect who needs to add some lower body strength to aid him in run blocking - however he has great balance that allows him to make some very good plays. He will likely drop in the draft because of his 6’1” frame, and could be available in the early second round.

Anthony Weaver
Weaver is one of the most technically sound tackles in this season’s draft. He has excellent footwork and is a very sound tackler. He is quick off the snap and has good pursuit but is not very big. His size would be a problem against bigger offensive lines, as he is unlikely to be able to add much weight to his frame. Weaver needs to work on his strength and leverage to excel at the next level.

Alan Harper
Although Alan Harper is not the biggest defensive tackle - in fact he is undersized for his position, he does excel at run blocking. Harper is not a great pass rusher as he lacks explosive speed, but he does always find away to show up when it counts. Has a great attitude towards the game, but will require a fair bit of work to make it in the NFL.

Eddie Freeman
Eddie Freeman is a good sized tackle who is perhaps the most versatile in this seasons draft. Freeman has actually played all four positions along the defensive line. He excels along the line because of his ability to move laterally and because he has such great instincts for the game. As a result he is always around the play contributing, and can make up for not being so quick off the ball. Also needs work on some tackling fundamentals. Freeman is likely to become a very good player at the next level, and has the size to add a little more weight to his 6’5” frame.

Josh Shaw
Shaw is an undersized defensive tackle that finds a way to make big plays. He has very good speed and a good vertical and timing that allows him to bat down passes. With his speed Shaw can also make tackles from behind. Shaw makes good use of his strength but needs work shedding blockers particularly when double teamed. Likely to drop into the late second or early third round, Shaw could be an impact player but isn’t likely to be an immediate starter.

Nate Dwyer
Nate Dwyer’s strength is in run blocking. He has very good upper body strength and finds his way into the backfield to stop running backs for losses. He uses his weight in combination with good technique to make plays. He is not an aggressive pass rusher, and sometimes misses out when he gambles on plays. Has improved over the season and likely would in continue to improve with better coaching at the next level.

This year’s crop of defensive tackles has some rather interesting prospects. The 49ers could be in good shape if some of the leaders in this group drops into the lower end of the first round. Otherwise the team may look for a defensive tackle in the later rounds that they could use in rotation and work with to eventually move into a starting position. The 49ers would be well served to take almost any of the bigger defensive tackles outlined above.

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